Beijing braced for a spike in severe COVID cases as the world watched with interest Follow Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People line up at a makeshift fever clinic set up inside the stadium, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing, China April 19 December 2022. REUTERS/Alessandro Diviggiano/File Photo

By Bernard Orr

BEIJING (Reuters) – Beijing faces a spike in severe COVID-19 cases over the next two weeks, a respiratory expert said, amid global concern about possible spikes. and had a knock-on effect on the world economy after China unexpectedly abandoned its tough virus policies.

After widespread protests, the country of 1.4 billion people this month began lifting the lockdown and “no COVID” testing that had largely contained the virus for three years, at a cost. huge economically and psychologically.

The easing has coincided with a surge in COVID cases that experts say is likely to accelerate through the winter, with projections suggesting China could face more than a million deaths. die next year.

China, which uses a narrow definition of what can be classified as a COVID death, reported no new COVID deaths on December 20, compared with 5 deaths. on the previous day.

The nation’s total number of deaths since the pandemic began has been revised to 5,241 after removing one death in Beijing.

That number could rise sharply in the near future, as the state-run Global Times, citing a leading Chinese respiratory expert, predicts a spike in severe cases in the capital in the coming weeks. next week.

“We must act quickly and prepare fever clinics, urgent and serious treatment resources,” Wang Guangfa, a respiratory specialist from Peking University No. 1 Hospital, told the newspaper. .

Severe cases rose 53 across China on Tuesday, compared with an increase of 23 the day before. China does not provide absolute figures on severe cases.

Wang predicts that the number of infections in China will peak in late January, and life will likely return to normal in late February or early March.


Amid doubts about China’s very low COVID death toll by global standards, the National Health Commission on Tuesday clarified only those who died from pneumonia and respiratory failure after contracting the virus. newly classified as a COVID-related death.

Heart attacks or cardiovascular diseases that are fatal to an infected person will not be classified there.

Benjamin Mazer, assistant professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins University, said that the classification would miss “a lot of cases”, especially those vaccinated, including the Chinese shots, at least. possible death from pneumonia.

Blood clots and sepsis – an extreme response of the body to infection – have caused countless deaths for COVID patients around the world.

“It makes no sense to adopt this kind of thinking in March 2020 when only COVID pneumonia can kill you, when we know that in the post-vaccine era, there are all sorts of things,” Mazer said. medical complications”.

The NHC also downplayed concerns raised by the United States and some epidemiologists about the virus’ ability to mutate, saying that the likelihood of new pathogenic strains emerging is higher than low.

Several leading scientists and World Health Organization advisers told Reuters it may be too early to declare an end to the global COVID pandemic emergency because of a potentially devastating wave. will come in China.

As recently as September, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that “the end is in sight” to the pandemic. Last week, he told reporters in Geneva that he “hopes” to end the state of emergency at some point next year.


The United States on Tuesday showed it was ready to assist China in its response to its outbreak, warning the uncontrolled spread in the world’s second-largest economy could have an impact on growth. Global.

The full impact of “no COVID” elimination remains highly uncertain due to China’s patchy vaccine coverage, fragile health system, and lack of clarity on the true extent of infection when it comes to the virus. cases began to increase.

Cities are ramping up efforts to expand intensive care units and build specialty clinics. Some hospitals have been flooded and some cities are dealing with shortages of medicine and blood.

However, some local governments have continued to relax regulations to an extent that was unimaginable just a few weeks ago, after a particularly difficult year for the tens of millions of Chinese who endured lengthy quarantine periods. at home despite having a negative test result.

Employees of the Communist Party and government organizations or businesses in the southwestern city of Chongqing with mild COVID symptoms can go to work if they wear masks, China Daily reported.

Other Chinese media reported similar moves in several cities across different provinces.

A major short-term concern for economists is the impact the spike in infections could have on factory output and logistics as workers and truck drivers fall ill.

The World Bank on Tuesday cut its growth outlook for China for this year and next, citing the abrupt easing of COVID-19 prevention measures among other factors.

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